Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Parisian Experience

Ok so it's been a while.... so how my memory fares on this topic will have to be left to fate I think.... well that and looking back at a few photos to see if that jigs my memory!

But as promised - I can' continue onto future posts until I post about Paris... because that wouldn't be fair... right?! All of you... 3 or 4 people who still read my blog will be hanging off every word to hear about what acutally happened in Paris!

6 days in Paris was perfect. Enough time to really soak up the atmosphere I think... especially seeing as there really is SO much to see. Up well before the sun was we caught the 6:20am train from Munich to make our way to Paris. This generally involved a little bit of sleeping and a whole heap of reading and ipod listening. The book I was reading on this trip was just fascinating, so I certainly would recommend "The Book Theif" by Markus Zuzak to anyone. Absolutely loved it.

Our location within Paris was ideal. After much talking up by Scott and Lily about the wonderful location and how modern this apartment was we were all pretty excited to see it. Situated on the Rue Saint Martin, just a few blocks down from the Center Geroges Pompidou or "Inside-out building" as we liked to call it, we were pretty central to everywhere you would want to be, while still getting the very local feel on Marais.

Upon entering the apartment, we all looked at each other wondering if we were in the right place. Even Scott had to ask the guy who let us in if this was the same place that was in the ad. Apparently 'comfortably sleeps 6 people' to Parisians means something a little different than it does to us Australians!

Let me paint you a little picture... to the Right we have the bathroom.. which basically means that you have to reverse into the toilet to use it... no possibility of moving around and stretching out in there! then we are welcomed with a lovely frosted glass door to the 'change room/ shower'... but more about that later!

Right infront of the front door (so next to the bathroom) was the kitchen, which yup, didn't leave much room, and then the living room, which would only seat... 3-4 people at most... Yup - you guessed it - sofa bed to fold out at night. Next room was bedroom #1 which had one of those fold down beds that you always see on cartoons where in the middle of their sleep someone is shoved back into the wall as the bed springs up... you can imagine the dreams we had about that!

Next room at least had a 'real bed' but there wasn't room for much else! Alas - our humble abode would do - I mean who sleeps in Paris! Too much to see and things to do!

Now... back to that apartment story... Yes, it was small, but one would not think that you could get THAT aquainted with your family as we did in this place. We all became experts at getting changed descretely *in* the shower (after all, if you didn't then EVERYBODY would be able to see your birthday suit!)... the toilet however was another story... yes, it wasn't all that foreign to use, the flush button may have been a little difficult to find, but boy was it tempermental! We found that this toilet was perhaps not best suited for a 'comfortably sleeping 6 people' appartment, as it just couldn't deal with the pressure and would often go into over-drive. If nothing else, it certainly made for some great toilet humour, a great way to 'get to know everyone' and of course made for some exciting breakfast entertainment.....

We spent most of the first day wondering around the Marais and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Paris. We were lucky enough to fine THE BEST crepe servery every in Marais, and all through Paris were yet to find one that compared. yumm!!!! Even their savoury crepes were delicous... much more than you would expect from what initially looked like a pretty ordinary, shabby little place..

One thing that amazed us was the size of the queues during the winter. We certainly didn't expect queues quite that big! I mean who in their right mind will queue for HOURS in the freezing cold just to see one teensy tiny little landmark.... loads of people I guess.

After a cosy night in, we went the next day toward the bastille, after scaring ourselves that we would need to pre-buy all of our tickets to the important museums, to save time on the queues. In the end it didn't really work out all that effective since we had to walk in the opposite direction to get these tickets. After finally picking all of these up, we went ahead to Notredame. The queue to go up to the top was huge, so we figured we would see enough of Paris from the other main monuments and sites for views. Notredame was absolutely beautiful, so little photographer in me snapped out her good ol camera for a few snaps around the place... that was until I was 'told off' for using a tripod... ah well!

Ater notredame, we had discussions about whether or not to head to Eiffel tower seeing as the weather was nice, but decided the queues were too long. So off we head to Musee d'orssay to see some of the famous artwork. Spent most of the afternoon wondering around and taking in some of the magnificent pieces of art... some tasteful, and some..... not so tasteful ;-). Lets just say... some of those coffee tables in your living room would certainly spark discussion.

I have to say also that our meals out in Paris were certainly delicious! While perhaps not good for the waist (just how do those Parisians stay so thin?!?!) they certainly were good for the tastebuds! And of course, you would go to Paris for a delicious Belgian meal of mussles right?!?!?!

The next day we went to see the Opera house which I think was Mum's highlight. This Opera house is the basis of "Phantom of the Opera" so mum really was in seventh heaven. It really was gorgeous and I think we all enjoyed it more than we thought we would. Once again, little photographer me had a lot of fun here!

On from the opera house to Galleries La'Fayette where we spent our millions.... or perhaps not...

since it was late in the afternoon now (gotta hate those early setting sun in winter!) we headed up to Sacre Couer and even though my legs were exhausted (we even did a detour past Moulin Rouge) we still climbed those steps as the cable car was just much too long a wait. The view was fantastic as it was a nice clear day and as always it is fun to try and guess what you are looking down on.

Next day we all have a lovely sleep in (for some on this trip, this is particularly hard!) and headed to the Eiffel Tower for a lovely 3hr queue (in the freezing cold.... I couldn't feel my toes anymore!)... or there abouts! now - 6 years ago when we went to Paris, we couldn't see squat from the top, as it was clouded over... so again.... yup you guessed it clouded over! Seeing as the weather was only going to get worse, we decided that we might as well go up now rather than later. So once again, I have a trip up the Eiffel which results in seeing nothing from the top... (well the pedestrian crossing looked like stairways to heaven, but...) Next time - I'm going in summer!

After a bit of a siesta we head out once more to enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris New Year celebrations. Walking down the Champ Elysees which presented quite a nice atmosphere, but interestingly, nobody really was stopping to relax. We make our way down to the Eiffel tower (which by now you can see the top of!) and amazingly we can get a pretty decent view. We decide to stay to watch the fireworks.

11pm comes and the tower does it's hourly 'night sparkle' this happens while we settle ourselves down, and wonder if we'll last an hour seeing as the temperature is dropping quite dramatically. White christmas or not... at least in Australia you can stay outside without turning into an ice block!

11:30pm comes and the tower begins to get a little bit more exciting and starts to sparkle and dance... wow! we think.... this fireworks display is going to be pretty amazing!

11:59 comes and closer and closer the new year of 2010 comes. the tower begins to 'count down' (a la light display) and then... 'hourly sparkle' comes on, before the tower goes completely quiet. We wait. (all the while cheering Bonne Annee or 'happy new year') nothing happens.... other than a few 'amatauer' fireworks. We wait some more.... still nothing.

Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen.... all we got for new years was a sparkly tower! that's it! no fireworks or anything! But what of the atmosphere? I hear you ask... surely the atmosphere must have been somehting! Well as soon as midnight came, everyone packed up and went home! I kid you not!! So while it was an experience, it certainly didn't rate compared to what we are used to at home!

The train ride home was 'interesting' to say the least. Nothing orderly or organised about it. The officials just 'shoved' you on and hoped for the best. Lets just say - I was glad the people 'next to me' (or was that ontop of me!) were not p!ssed enough to spew all over you as that certainly wouldn't be pleasant.

Another sleep in and we head out again for a wonder around the lourve area. By the time we got to the Lourve it was SO cold that we couldn't feel our toes. By this stage it had started snowing, so we decided to slowly head back and try and de-thaw.

Victor Hugo museum was another site for us to visit. We didn't really know much about him, but it certainly was interesting to learn more about one of France's more popular authors.

All in all a great (albeit busy!) trip to Paris. After catching the eurostar back to London (Yes! It worked this time!!) I spent a few days back in the UK before heading home and once more the weary traveller resides in her Australian home!

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Europe trip

Ok.... so I failed.... miserably!

I promised all I would keep this blog up-to-date with the latest happenings of our trip and I left you in the lurch!

Firstly it wasn't as easy as it seems to find some internet locations, secondly, when we did have internet connection, with 4 other people wanting to use the same computer, and limited time before we head out on our next adventure, a 2 second update on FB was FAR easier than writing an essay..... and I am sure you are all aware of how much I can chat and write!!

I think it goes without saying that eventually.... yes, we did leave London and got to head off on our round-a-bout Europe trip, so I will try and wrap it all up as much as I can in one blog for you all to sit and read ;-)

Getting up at the break of dawn after my last post, we arrived at Gatwick airport ready and raring to go. All seemed to be going to plan, the airport was open for one, the planes were delayed but going. A few hair-raising moments where all the screen said was 'please wait for more info' and some gruelling hours sitting in those remarkably uncomfortable airport seats while listening to the 'Gatwick x Factor' (think karaoke at the airport) with some great singers and some.... not so great... we FINALLY were able to board the plane and jet-set off to Salzburg.

We arrived to a land of white. In a world, Salzburg is spectacular. Right up my alley with lovely mountain views and a nice country feel. Very 'Austrian' atmosphere. Our apartment was covered with white, and seeing as the temperature the previous day was -12degC (despite the fact the weather was currently +15deg C) we were still relatively confident we were going to get our white christmas.

The Salzburg Altstadt (Old town) is really lovely. With the backdrop of the fortress and Christmas markets to wonder around, soak up the atmosphere and practice our German (not to mention the challenge of trying to order something authentic yet having not idea *exactly* what it is!). There was a lot to see in Salzburg. The Untersberg Mountain/ cable car which is to give some spectacular views of Salzburg was great, although we HAD to go up on the only cloudy day where we couldn't see a thing! The Sound of Music tour, where we got to see where they filmed all of those famous scenes. I have to say our tour guide on this one really made it all.. She was fantastic and made the trip really enjoyable. The funny thing is that we later found out after the trip (thanks to my wonderful detective skills!) that we actually were staying NEXT too the actual Von Trapp house.... hows that for ironic :p. The fortress was also magnificent, giving you spectacular views of Salzburg itself. Another highlight, which we didn't get to enjoy fully were the Mozart Museums explaining more about his life while in Salzburg.

Now here's a cheeky conundrum for you. We initially chose Salzburg as a destination place because of the lovely views and that it was pretty much destined to be freezing cold and heaps of snow. I mean, where else would you go for a lovely white Christmas as a bunch of Australians who will never get to experience such a thing at home... Why is it then, that each day we were in Salzburg, they days got warmer and warmer, the snow melted more and more... so that when we awoke on Christmas day, there was scarcely a drop of snow to be found!!

No matter we said, we shall head up to the ski villages for surely there will be snow there... We can go for a Christmas sleigh ride and enjoy the sights, the village and have a lovely christmas lunch. So we book our tickets on Christmas eve to head up to Schladminng for perhaps some taboganning and some snow fun.

Imagine our surprise when we get there and not only is there NO snow, but the only snow on the slopes is FAKE snow!!! I kid you not, when I went up to Buller earlier this year, we had BETTER snow!!! Now when would that ever happen!!! So with not much to do at this ski resort, we head down for a lovely lunch. Continue with the irony that when we were driving away from Schladminng, yup you guessed it, it was snowing a gale.... thanks..... one day late!

Still.. we were able to enjoy our snow moments in London (where it seldom snows), we were able to *see* lots of snow, and we still had an enjoyable Christmas! Just.... not exactly the way we planned.

Onwards now from Salzburg, to a 2hr train ride to Munich for our next stop. Munich we were to spend only 1 day as a quick stop over before heading on to Paris, our next destination. Munich was a pleasant surprise. Unsure what exactly we would find here (other than beer halls!) all of us found that this charming place exceeded all of our expectations with what the city had to offer. In the morning, we went on a rather.... informative Third Reich Tour which told us about the beginnings of Adolf Hitler and WW2. You can't really say it's enjoyable, but it certainly was interesting and informative to have this little piece of history told. I'm certainly glad we went. None were more surprised than our parents, who upon travelling to Munich 20 years ago found that there was very little information they could find about the war or about the concentration camps etc, whereas now they are all very open about it. In the afternoon we explored the city and all of it's haunts.

I have to say though the highlight of Munich was in fact the beer halls. The first night we of course went to 'Hofbrauhous' the most popular of all beer halls. To paint a picture, this place is like.... a mess hall or a massive cafeteria. There is no waiting around for tables, it's grab-it-where-you-can, sit with who you can!!! The food was ok, the beer fantastic, while my brother, continued with his age-old challenge of trying to get me drunk. I must say that after 1L of beer (a stein in Germany is the 'normal' size of beer and is 1L) and feeling none the worse for wear, he was a wee bit impressed thinking that his conservative sister 'doesn't really drink all that much ;-)'.

Enjoying our experience so much at the Hofbrauhous, we decided to visit another beer hall for our final night in Munich, but instead, going for a more 'local' feel. We certainly succeeded, finding a Beerhall a little out of the way, but certainly filled with locals, good beer and great food. It was great getting recommendations from our neighbours about what was 'good food' there and also trying the local cuisine. Consuming just as much beer for a second night in a row, I think it's safe to say that I might be a converted woman.... might be.....

So Munich got a definite tick on our list of places to go, and we head off in the early hours of the morning, for our 6hr train ride to Paris.

Looks like it's almost time to head out again though, so I might continue with our Parisian adventure at another time.... so until then....

Au revoir!